Industry Articles

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Stuffing Box Repacking – Step by Step

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

This Task Sheet will assist in properly evaluating and repacking a conventional stuffing box—steps essential to the reliability of vessels with conventional fixed-shaft drives. For boats in your care, replace packing material and the hose clamps connecting a stuffing box to the shaft log every four or five years or 1,000 hours running time, whichever comes first. (For a detailed discussion of stuffing boxes and alternative shaft seal options, see “A Guide to Stuffing Boxes and Shaft Seals,” Professional BoatBuilder No. 206, page 46.)

There are two categories of conventional stuffing boxes: the carrier-nut variety, and the twin-tie-rod type. Both compress soft lubricated packing material…

Repacking Conventional Stuffing Boxes

Fixed Fire Fighting System Installation

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

These guidelines will assist you in properly specifying and installing fixed fire suppression systems (FFSS) and related components.

ABYC standards are clear on the subject: “Fire extinguishing equipment (portable or fixed) shall be listed or approved by a US Coast Guard-recognized independent testing laboratory. The installation and use of such fire extinguishing equipment shall be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.”

Among other things, these must not be dry chemical systems. They must utilize a  clean gaseous agent that does not leave a residue or…

Fixed Firefighting System Installation

Diesel Tanks Done Right

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

A frustratingly common scene plagues my professional life: I’m hunched down in a foul-smelling bilge or engine-room asking myself, “How the heck am I going to get this tank (or these tanks) out of here?” It doesn’t have to be this way, because most onboard fuel, water, or waste tank failures are preventable.

Nearly every vessel I inspect requires major disassembly to remove at least the fuel tank/s and often all the tanks. That’s not unreasonable for larger enclosed-cabin vessels, motoryachts, cruising sailboats, etc. (Runabouts and center-consoles, on the other hand, should present no such…

Fuel Tanks Pt I

Fuel Tanks Pt II

Hauling and Blocking Deep Dive

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Boats, particularly keelboats, are designed to be stable in the water, not on land. Hauling and storing an average modern cruising sailboat is a highly specialized, high-stakes exercise in handling an object that measures 70′ (21.34m) or more from the bottom of the keel to the top of the mast, weighs 40 or 50 tons, and terminates on the bottom and top in narrow appendages of varying delicacy. The boats are ungainly and awkward, like the proverbial fish out of water. A good service yard can make…

Out of Their Element

Fires, and the Lessons we (too often don’t) Learn

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Three years ago, I created a folder on my computer desktop for stories of fires aboard recreational and commercial small craft. Today, it contains 11 files, each a different scenario. While we’ve covered fire and fire detection in Professional BoatBuilder in the past, onboard fires, although infrequent, persist and often involve serious injuries or death. It’s worth reminding ourselves how fires start and how avoidable…

Onboard Fires: Lessons Not Learned

Propeller Installation – Step by Step

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine 

I can’t overstate the importance of correctly fitting a propeller to its shaft. The beauty of the tapered engagement between these solid metal components is it ensures that they remain firmly attached to each other; some might say they are seized or stuck. That’s exactly what you’re looking for. With the correct tools, removal rarely presents a problem, while problems nearly always arise when an installer, often with good intentions, tries to ease or aid a future removal.  These ill-advised attempts usually…

Propeller Installation

Ground Plate Installation

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

A ground plate provides an adequate connection between a vessel’s systems bonding/grounding, lightning protection, SSB radio—and the surrounding seawater. (When applied to SSB radios, the plate is commonly referred to as a counterpoise.) It is equally important to systems on powerboats and sailboats.

While the science of lightning strikes as they relate to small craft is anything but settled, studies indicate that the greatest potential to dissipate strike current can be gained from…

Ground Plate Installation

When Lightning Strikes

Written by James Cote

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

More than a decade of astonishing advances in marine electronics, connectivity, and digital communication has given today’s boat owner previously unthinkable capacities to electronically monitor and control onboard systems and functions, ranging from engines, steering, stabilizers, and navigation to lighting, air-conditioning, security cameras, safety systems, water supply, and waste disposal. As cutting-edge electronic and digital communication technology has…

When Lightning Strikes the Digital Boat

Alignment, Step by Step

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

This guide is designed to assist you in properly aligning engine and shaft couplings. Engine and propeller shaft alignment are critical aspects of propulsion system installation, reliability, and maintenance.

Incorrect alignment can result in a variety of undesirable outcomes, from excessive vibration and fuel consumption to transmission bearing and shaft failure. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a well-used liveaboard cruiser or…

Task Sheet: Engine Alignment

Installing Hardware in Cored Composites

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

This guide is designed to assist you in the installation or replacement of fasteners, through-hulls, and hardware in cored-composite structures such as hulls, decks, and cabins. Commonly installed parts and components include cleats, ports, windows, hatches, stanchions, antennas, through-hull fittings, and transducers, to name a few. Whatever you’re installing, for any penetration drilled or cut into a cored-composite structure, you should follow the basic procedures below.

First, let’s recall that the purpose of core is to add lightweight rigidity to the thin and flexible (inner and outer) fiberglass skins. When built correctly and subsequently treated well…

Task Sheet: Installing Hardware in Cored Composites

Seacock Installation Step by Step

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

This is a guide to assist you in the installation or replacement of a seacock in an FRP vessel. At a minimum such installations must meet American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) guidelines, which specify that the assembly be able to withstand 500 lbs (226.8 kg) of static force for 30 seconds when applied in any direction to the inboard portion of the installation. This means the fewer hard-piped attachments made to the seacock the better. Ideally, the only hard plumbing component that should be attached directly to the seacock body is a pipe-to-hose (PTH) adapter or perhaps a street L (male–female threaded 90° fitting), the PTH adapter, and then the hose. After the hose interface, other raw-water approved plumbing components may be plumbed into the system, but at the very least, every plumbing component that is below the waterline or conveys raw water—strainers, air-conditioning plumbing, watermakers, etc.—should be rugged and robust enough to withstand being stepped, sat, or leaned upon. Hose for below-the-waterline and…

Task Sheet: Seacock Installation

Hose Clamp Know How

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Think for a moment about this sobering truth: someplace in the onboard systems of even the most expensive boats, watertight integrity relies on the unfailing performance of simple thin metal hose clamps, some costing just a few dollars. While I haven’t seen many vessels sink as a result of hose-clamp failure, that disaster is easily avoided, as are the many less-dramatic results of their failures on fuel-fill and supply
plumbing or sanitation and potable water systems, to name a few. In short, hose clamps are…

Hose Clamps

Shore Power Transformers

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Not long ago, I sat with a client hunched in the lazarette of his newly acquired boat. Looking over the humming shore-power transformer, he said, “I’ve heard these are useful, but I have no idea why. Can you explain it?” The boat’s builder, struggling to articulate a response, finally said, “Trust me, they are good to have.”

Many professionals in the industry stumble on the transformer question. These units are indeed beneficial in many ways, and those who decide whether to…

The Complexity of Plugging In

Shaft Couplings

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

While relatively simple in design and construction, propeller shaft couplings are the sole mechanical tie in the drivetrain between the propeller shaft and the transmission and engine. To fulfill their essential role in a boat’s propulsion system, they must be properly selected and installed.

The design of a coupling is simple. It’s a wide, flat flange mounted on the end of a driveshaft that interfaces with a mating face on the transmission’s output coupling. To keep…

Shaft Couplings

Hull Paint Selection; Beware, trade names are often, and incorrectly, used interchangeably

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

During my 11 years of managing a boatbuilding and refit yard, my crew applied a lot of paint, primarily Awlgrip brand—the industry standard at the time. Invariably, clients wanted the rich dark colors—Super Jet Black, Vivid Red, Aristo Blue, and Jade Mist Green. And as hard as I tried to talk them out of those, I was seldom successful. Other than aesthetics, dark colors have no advantages unless you live in a cold climate and want a boat to warm up. Nat Herreshoff is reputed to have said, “There are only two colors to paint a boat—black or white. And only a fool would paint a boat black.” While those aren’t exactly my sentiments, he had a good point.

The disadvantages of glossy dark colors include an unforgiving tendency to reveal any blemish in the underlying surface, and a warmer cabin…

Color, Chemistry, and the Perils of Paint Selection

Steering Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

After sail or engine propulsion, steering is one of the most important systems on any boat. In the systems inspections I conduct, I mark a deficiency as a critical or important safety item if the answer is “yes” to any of the following questions: Will a failure of this component cause the vessel to flood? Will it cause a fire? Will it injure a crew member? Will it cause or lead to a loss of steering or control?

Multiple steering systems have evolved over the past few centuries, the most basic of which, the rudder and tiller, is still used today. I remember as a boy sitting in the aft-facing seat of our family’s 16′ (4.9m) runabout marveling at the fully exposed “clothesline” cable-and-pulley steering system. The cable would periodically jump off the…

Steering Part I

Steering Part II

Large Battery Bank Wisdom

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

There was a time when a 40′ or 50′ (12m or 15m) cruising boat could get by on 400 amp-hours of house battery capacity. Times change, and common now are large house-battery banks supporting myriad electrical accessories and the extended periods that operators wish to use them. I’ve seen a steady increase in the physical size, electrical capacity, and complexity of banks, often achieved by simply adding more batteries to an existing design or installation. In most cases, little consideration is given to the…

Large Banks

Blackwater Guide – Sanitation Systems Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

In the last decade, onboard waste storage—the dreaded holding tank—has been refined, if not perfected. Now, odors can be largely eliminated thanks to the introduction of freshwater flush, hoses better able to resist permeation, and tank ventilation and aeration systems. Also, technology that enables flushing with a fraction of the water once required has reduced the size of holding tanks (or increased their effective volume). In short, today’s sanitation systems are easier to install and maintain and are more reliable. And yet, when I board many vessels and open a bilge or lazarette hatch, my nostrils are assaulted by the acrid, unmistakable odor of effluent.

Crawling through these spaces I encounter what have become predictable sanitation system design and installation errors—flaws that could have been easily avoided during original installations. Most are correctable…

Blackwater Guide

Exhaust System Design and Installation

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Exhaust systems are critical to any vessel’s design. They can affect everything from noise, vibration, watertight integrity, and engine room temperature to performance, fuel economy, and crew safety. Failing to follow engine and generator manufacturer installation guidelines is, in my experience, by far the most common cause of system breakdown, poor vessel performance, and warranty disputes. Fortunately, there’s very little new about exhaust system design and installation, so it’s relatively…

Exhaust Systems

LP Gas Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Despite suggestions to the contrary,the days of on board liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are not yet numbered.It’s true that for many new build projects I work on, LPG stoves are being displaced by induction cooktops, many of which operate from the vessels’ inverters. On the other hand, LPG is still an efficient, compact, and costeffective means of both cooking and cabin heating, making it ideal for smaller vessels without gensets, and for infrequent users. Thus, I believe we will continue to design, sell, install, and service LPG systems on boats for many years to come.

At the same time, the volume of violations and safety issues I encounter indicates that installers and repairers often do not understand…

LP Gas

The Necessity of Straight – Running Gear Alignment

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Once, after I was asked by a boat owner to correct a misaligned shaft, the boat’s builder said to me, “There are many ways to do an alignment, and most of them are right.” I couldn’t disagree more; there are very few correct means of carrying out the two primary types of alignment: engine to shaft, and shaft to bearing. Regrettably, these procedures are poorly documented. (While American Boat & Yacht Council Standard P-6, Propeller Shafting Systems, covers running gear, it, like all such standards, isn’t a how-to manual; I know of no alignment instruction manual.) I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I continue to find poorly aligned shafts on new and used vessels alike.

Such a lack of authority makes it easy for misinformation to spread. For instance, it’s a popular belief that shaft misalignment can be detected by obvious clues, like vibration. Indeed, while vibration may be…

The Necessity of Straight

Potable Water Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

While potable-water systems are typically simple when compared to onboard fuel or electrical systems, it’s no less important that they work correctly and safely. Components for water systems must be sound and sanitary. After all, contaminated water or an unexpected shortage due to leaky plumbing can be just as harmful to a vessel’s crew as leaking fuel or electrical faults.

System materials, design, and ongoing maintenance all play important roles in assuring the quality of fresh water available on any boat. Mostly gone are the days of…

Fresh, Clean, and Clear: Potable Water Systems Part 1

To Heat and to Hold: Potable Water Systems Part 2

Plumbing the Depths – Bilge Pump Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

In my 25 years in the marine industry I’ve frequently encountered misconceptions about bilge pumps and their capacity to operate as damage control devices. Many people believe that a bilge pump labeled “2000” can be relied on to pump 2,000 gallons (7,571 liters) of water per hour from a leaking boat. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of bilge pump systems are hamstrung by design and installation faults that diminish a pump’s output by as much as 75%, so even under ideal circumstances it is incapable of keeping up with an inrush of seawater from a minor hull breach, much less catastrophic flooding.

Below is an excerpt from a letter from a client whose boat was nearly lost because of a small leak caused…

Plumbing the Depths

The Power and Peril of Stainless – Stainless Steel and its Proper Application in the World of Boat Building

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

If you’ve worked in a service yard, this list of problems will be familiar: rust from a rub strake leaves streaks on the topsides, or deck hardware stains the gelcoat; a stainless steel chainplate corrodes where it passes through a cored deck; a pitted stainless steel prop shaft breaks under load; or stainless steel keelbolts require replacement or fail outright from corrosion. And as you explain the failure and propose an appropriate repair, a disappointed owner predictably asks, “How could it corrode? It’s stainless.” The short and alarming answer is “Very easily.” But too often the builders or repairers doing the job have little more understanding of the complexity of stainless steel corrosion than the owner. With growing concerns about our ability to verify the metallurgical quality of…

The Power and Peril of Stainless

Trial by Water – Sea Trials Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

“Negative. We don’t run vessels at full throttle around here,” declared the dealership’s captain and lead mechanic shortly after I handed him my requested sea-trial guideline.

“Why not?” I asked, “The engine has over 200 hours on it, and it’s rated by the manufacturer to operate at full throttle.”

“Do you know anything about the melting temperatures of metals?” he retorted, his dismissive response a red herring that would prevent me from performing a thorough sea trial.

In my 25-year career in the marine industry I’ve performed hundreds of sea trials and learned something new with each one. I’ve also learned that most sea trials lack rigor and thoroughness to the point of negligence in some of the worst cases. As a result, boat owners often don’t receive the benefit of the careful and knowledgeable scrutiny they pay for and need. In practical terms, a casual approach to sea trials results in…

Trial by Water

Oil Change Delayed – Extending Oil Change Intervals with By-Pass Filtration

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

One ritual and expense of boat maintenance is the regular changing of engine crankcase oil. Few of us in the industry stop to consider whether it is desirable or necessary to drain and replace oil with a frequency strictly determined by the hours on the oil, the months that have passed, or the gallons of fuel burned since the last change. After reviewing hundreds of fluid analysis reports for crankcase oil, I’m convinced that most of the oil removed from the crankcases of recreational vessels is discarded long before it has reached the end of its useful life. Indeed, in the majority of cases I studied, it could have continued to serve quite effectively. In many vessels whose oil is changed prior to off-season storage, the lubricant has accrued fewer than 100 hours of service and is far from worn out.

Oil Change Delayed

Lessons from the Oil Sump – Oil Analysis Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

A staple of any good yard’s maintenance schedule for each boat in its care is to change the oil and filters based on use or regular seasonal service. As a result, boat owners already spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on engine and hydraulic oil and fi lter changes every year. But most of that used oil is unceremoniously disposed of along with a wealth of information that could be extracted from it at modest expense by participation in an oilanalysis program.

Commonly referred to as predictive and condition-based maintenance, studying fl uid drained from engines, generators, transmissions, hydraulic stabilizers, thrusters, and steering and cooling systems can frequently…

Lessons from the Oil Sump

Get-Home Systems; The Get Home Engine and its Application

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

There’s an active debate in the world of cruising-motoryacht owners and skippers over the preference for single versus twin screw. Sentiments on the subject run deep; just bring it up at a rendezvous or boat show, and you can count on opinions from all quarters. If you build or repair motoryachts, a customer has probably asked you, at one time or another, to share and justify your thoughts on the topic. On what information should you base your response? For many, including me, it will be…

Get-Home Systems

Bonding Basics; Bonding Systems Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

During a recent boat inspection ata local yard, I noticed a marked disparity in the condition of two sacrificial anodes on the vessel’s transom. Commonly referred to as zincs, although they can be cast from other alloys, one had been consumed at a rate I thought consistent with the vessel’s season afl oat—it was reduced by roughly 50%. The other remained in a near-virgin condition. I’d seen this phenomenon before and knew immediately something was amiss with the bonding system.
When it comes to corrosion and bonding, boats can suffer the effects of a faulty electrical system in ways that are not immediately obvious to their owners. It’s up to vigilant yard crews to notice the sometimes subtle indicators, track down and remedy bonding problems, and educate owners about this complex…

Bonding Basics

A Case for Complexity – Complex Vessel Systems Done Right

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I’ve noticed a recent trend among industry journalists and pundits to embrace the idea of simplicity in new boat design and construction. Their stated thinking is that boats are getting too complex and expensive, scaring away potential buyers and turning off existing owners. Their proposed remedy is to simplify designs and onboard systems.

While I applaud any approach that makes boats and boating more affordable, economical, and efficient, I don’t see simplicity, especially in marine systems, as a panacea for what ails boatbuilding in 2012. As a response to real industry challenges, the call to simplify offers only the…

A Case for Complexity

Strainers, Inside and Out – Hull and Interior Raw Water Strainers Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

As a former boatyard manager, when I walk through a yard it’s difficult not to scan each boat for stable blocking, the proper number of jackstands, soil erosion, deck drainage angle, etc. During a recent yard visit I noticed a single-screw boat equipped with a total of four external, scooptype hull strainers, all of which were located around what must have been the engine compartment. My internal alarm sounded. They were typical scoop strainers, wedge-shaped and perforated with many small holes or slots. It was the number of them that alerted me to the likelihood that at least one of them was probably incorrectly applied, because scoop strainers aren’t right for every raw-water intake in an engine room.

Raw water is one of the essential fluids—along with crankcase oil, coolant, and fuel—that keep a marine engine running. Its critical function is…

Strainers, Inside and Out

Fixed Firefighting Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

With the prospect of searing heat above 1,000°F (538°C) from burning fuel or fiberglass, fire is a modern mariner’s worst nightmare. Faced with a shipboard fire, there are two courses of action: abandon ship or extinguish the flames quickly. The latter is the subject of this article.

While portable and fixed fire extinguishers can use similar agents, or materials, to extinguish a fire, there are important distinctions between the two options. A fixed fire-extinguishing, or FFE, system is permanently installed aboard a vessel. A portable fire extinguisher is a handheld…

Fixed Firefighting Systems

Deep Storage – Long Term Vessel Storage Techniques

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Several months ago a client called with a question, the fourth of its type I’d received in a little over a year: “I’m going to store my 56′ [17m] boat ashore for two or three years, in Spain. What do I need to know?”

Deep Storage


First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Let’s begin by formally defining biodiesel. It’s the name given to a liquid fuel derived from vegetable or plant oils, animal fats, waste cooking oils, and greases. These can be virgin oils, or re-refined from fast-food and restaurant deep-fryers. That’s right: the same oil that your French fries or onion rings were cooked in today could power a marine diesel engine tomorrow.
In more scientific terms, biodiesel is methyl/ethyl ester–based oxygenate. It can be derived from soy methyl ester, or SME, popular in the United States; or rapeseed (canola) methylester, or RME, popular in Europe. Both oils are known as fatty acid methyl esters, or FAMEs. Other crops, among them mustard, cotton, sunflower, sesame, coconut, palm, hemp, and even algae, have been enlisted to produce biodiesel.
These oils cannot go straight from the press to the fuel tank. Accounts are legion of operators running…


Refine the Ride – Thrust Bearing Systems Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

What can I do to make my boat quieter?  It’s a question I’ve been asked many times in my years as a boatyard manager, technical writer, and marine industry consultant.

Insulation, perhaps the first thought, is not the answer. Granted, the more you surround noisy engines, generators, pumps, and compressors with sound absorbing material, the less noise will reach your ear. But where noise and vibration are concerned, isolation is even better than sound containment, and that’s where thrust-bearing drivetrains come into play.

Isolating rather than absorbing vibration minimizes noise from the outset. Perceptible sound is simply…

Refine the Ride

Nuts. Bolts. Screws.; Fasteners and Their Designations Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuillder Magazine

For machine screws, nuts, and bolts, it’s all in the torque and resulting clamping force applied to the parts being secured. Whether that’s an engine cylinder-head or a mastmounted VHF antenna, applying the proper torque to the appropriate bolt or screw could very well mean the difference between fastener success and failure.

For self-tapping screws, it is head design, not torque capacity or brute strength, that often determines selection.

Nuts. Bolts. Screws.

Centrifugal Filtration; The Ultra Filtration Approach for Diesel Fuel

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Swedish engineer and chemist Carl Gustaf de Laval, though not its inventor, is acknowledged as the father of the modern separating centrifuge. An accomplished inventor in his own right, de Laval worked toward the latter part of the 19th century building high-speed steam turbines with special nozzles of his design (de Laval nozzles), involving reduction gears with lots of lubrication. One challenge he faced: contamination of turbine oil with water in the form of steam. While searching for a reliable, inexpensive method to quickly remove water and other contaminants from the oil, he opted for the centrifuge separator principle, a product he’d already improved and developed successfully for other applications.
Interestingly, while de Laval’s work with turbines and gear reduction had an impact on the engineering and maritime world—the first steamturbine yacht, Turbinia, sea-trialed in 1894, was for a time the fastest…

Centrifugal Filtration

So You Think You Know Diesel; Diesel Fuel Explained

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Most engine manufacturers, mechanics, and vessel operators tend to be fanatical about obtaining clean diesel and maintaining a clean fuel system. They don’t sweat those details for gasoline engines. Why? Because although all internal-combustion engines require a clean supply of fuel, diesel engines are more sensitive to contamination due to the fuel’s lubricity. Diesel fuel is quite slippery (if you’ve ever spilled any on deck or the cabin sole and stepped on it, you know this) thanks to two attributes that involve hydrodynamic and boundary lubrication. The former…

So You Think You Know Diesel


First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

It’s a sight no boat owner or builder ever imagines he or she will see, except perhaps in a nightmare: a 1″ (25mm) column of water filling the cabin from a failed through-hull fitting. If that hardware failure were located 3′ (0.9m) below the waterline, it would flood a hull with approximately 34 gallons (129 liters) per minute, or 2,000 gallons (7,570 l) per hour. That’s more than most bilge pumps or even the proverbial “scared man with a bucket” can handle. Bilge pump capacities are typically rated as though the pump were at the waterline and operating on 13.8V—an unlikely scenario unless the engine or generator is running.


Polishing the Fuel

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

In a conventional engine installation, all that stands between contaminated fuel and the vulnerable power plant are the primary and secondary fuel-line filters. While any filtration is better than none, not all filters are effective against the many and various contaminants often found in marine diesel fuel and tanks.

If properly engineered and installed, the primary and secondary filters for engines and generators typically provide clean fuel. When faced with more than average contamination, though, or if poorly maintained, the filters quickly choke. In the bestcase scenario, fouled filters will…

Polishing the Fuel

Show and Tell; Favorite Tools from the Boat Show Circuit

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I’m always on the lookout for good quality tools or tools that improve on existing designs. Years ago, while I was working as a marine electrician, an automatic wire stripper was introduced. The concept was unique: clamp jaws grabbed the insulation and essentially pulled rather than cut it off the conductor. It sounds rough, but it worked and was especially useful for removing the outer jacket from sheathed duplex cable, a task that is otherwise challenging to execute neatly. Additionally, for all but the most experienced marine electricians, the conventional practice of cutting insulation with a stripping tool with multiple wire stations always holds the risk of inadvertently shaving off a few conductor strands beneath. This clamp-and-strip approach offered…

Show and Tell

Bring on the Diesel Outboard

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I have been fascinated by diesel engines since 1986 when I was first exposed to a hardworking version aboard the 120′ (36.6m) research schooner Westward, built in 1961. She was fitted with a well maintained 6-cylinder, 340-hp, airstart MaK diesel. To me, it was a beautiful machine.
Another lesson I learned from Westward was the simplicity, inherent safety, and logic of the all-diesel boat. Instead of a common liquid-propanegas (LPG) or electric range, the galley was equipped with a large diesel model. Diesel stoves of that era were known for…

Bring on the Diesel Outboard

Industry Profiles

Volvo Penta, the Rest of the Story

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I took a seat in the helm chair and pushed the joystick to the right to move the boat off the dock, then twisted it to point the bow toward the mouth of the inlet. The boat dutifully complied with every command, as I, and anyone else in this industry, would expect it to.

While Volvo Penta didn’t invent the joystick control for recreational vessels, it popularized the now-ubiquitous system released just over a decade ago. As I piloted the vessel, an inboard joystick model…


Elling Yachts

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

In November 2014, after the Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Professional BoatBuilder technical editor Steve D’Antonio and I traveled an hour south to Veerdam, to visit Neptune Marine Shipbuilding. D’Antonio, whose consultancy business includes a client who owns one of Neptune’s Elling brand motoryachts, was curious to visit the yard for a close look at materials and processes. We met Elling Yachts owner Anton van den Bos, a graduate of TU Delft in mechanical engineering, who gave us a shop tour and…

Elling Yachts

The Competitor; Palm Beach Motor Yachts Profile

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I was introduced to Mark Richardsand his company, Palm Beach Motor Yachts, a couple of years ago, beginning with a crawl-through and sea trial of a Palm Beach 45 (LOA 49’/14.9m) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After that, I supervised a new build, which required taking two trips to the Palm Beach factory on Australia’s Central Coast. During the project, I worked closely with Palm Beach staff and couldn’t help but notice their admiration for Mark, whom they affectionately call “Ricko.”

To the rest of his native Australia, Mark Richards has become a household name as the skipper of Wild Oats XI. It’s not hard to understand why. Within weeks of her launching, she took “treble” in the 2005 Sydney Hobart Race— winning line honors, the handicap, and setting a race record. She went on to win the Sydney Hobart seven more times, including seven line honors and an additional treble. In 2012, she beat the course record for the…

The Competitor

Without a Factory; VETUS, a Company Profile

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I first saw Vetus’s distinctive offerings as a young mechanic working aboard sailing vessels built in the U.S. as well as ones from France, Sweden, and the U.K. The gear seemed a little odd, decidedly European. I remember those flexible rubber Dorade cowl vents—white on the outside, vivid red on the inside—exhaust system components and vented loops, and the distinctive yellow-and-blue packaging that still defines the Vetus brand. (Back then it was W.H. den Ouden, which later morphed into Vetus den Ouden and fi nally Vetus.)

Through the years, the company became a source for more components and materials. When I managed a boatyard, nearly every bow thruster…

Without a Factory

Power Trip; The History of MAN Engines

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

“The manufacturer of the world’s first diesel engine.” It’s a claim guaranteed to capture any gearhead’s attention. It caught mine. I didn’t find out about MAN’s affiliation with Rudolf Diesel until I visited the company’s facility in Nuremberg, Germany. Hold that thought.
Starting in Seattle
My introduction to MAN Engines started with a visit to its U.S. West Coast dealer, RDI Marine, through my work with Fleming Yachts (see “Fleming: An Asian Pacific Venture,” Professional BoatBuilder No. 151). RDI opened its shop in…

Power Trip

Ballard’s Shipwrights; The Marine Industry of Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood

 First published in PassageMaker Magazine

Granite countertops, cherry joiner work, stainless steel appliances, a big screen TV, a 750 horsepower Cummins QSK 19, bulbous bow, and bow thruster; she sleeps six and cruises at 8.5 knots. You might mistake this for a description of a custom-built expedition yacht; that is until you read the rest of the specifications, which include titanium refrigeration chillers, 65 and 150 kW generators, all stainless steel hydraulic plumbing (and lots of it), and an 18,000 lb. capacity, one of a kind deck crane.

This vessel is in fact a newly-completed fishing trawler, recently commissioned in Ballard, Washington. I spent about an hour aboard her while dockside, going through her myriad systems, and speaking with her proud owner, John Barry and his commissioning contractor, George Hooper of Hooper Marine.

Ballard’s Shipwrights

Additional information for Ballard’s Shipwrights

Fleming: An Asian Pacific Venture

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

I first met Tony Fleming at a boat show in Maryland in 2008 shortly after he’d concluded the shakedown cruise aboard his own boat, Venture, hull #1 of Fleming Yachts’ then-new 65 (19.8m) line. It was a shakedown cruise like none I’d heard of before. The two-year, 20,000-nm voyage had taken Fleming from Vancouver, British Columbia, down the California Coast to the Galápagos, through the Panama Canal, up the East Coast to the Hudson River, through the New York State Canals to the St. Lawrence Seaway, from there to Nova Scotia, and finally to Maryland.

While I’ve known of Fleming Yachts for most of my marine industry career (the first Fleming was launched in 1986), I’d never witnessed Tony Fleming in action before. He and his boat…

Fleming: An Asian Pacific

Blue Flame Afloat; Kabola Diesel Heating Systems

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

For boats sailing in the tropics or Mediterranean, cabin-heating systems are a nonissue. But in the colder waters of New England, the Pacific Northwest, Northern Europe, and Russia, recreational boating stretches into the shoulder seasons, and commercial activity carries on through even the coldest months. Heat matters in this large market area, yet onboard heaters are, in too many cases, inefficient afterthoughts. When powerboats are under way, a relatively easy bit of plumbing work can draw excess heat from the engine’s cooling system through a cabin radiator; but for vessels at rest, or boats with greater heating needs, an array of solid fuel, propane, and diesel options is available. While it has a reputation as…

Blue Flame Afloat

In Gear – The History of ZF Marine

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

As I boarded ZF Marine’s 40′ (12.2m) test boat for sea trials on Lake Garda, Italy, I eyed the seabelts on the twin helm seats with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity.  These guys weren’t fulling around.

We departed from the company’s testing facility in Arco driving a boat equipped with a pair of ZF 2000 series pod drive and ZF’s Joystick Maneuvering System (JMS), both recent innovations.  For the past five years, the industry has been abuzz with the accounts of the improved handling and efficiency made possible by by pod drives…

In Gear

The Stability of Spin; Seakeeper Gyroscopic Stabilizers

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

The balancing forces exerted by their sails and keels tend to make sailboats more stable than powerboats. So it wasn’t until sail gave way to
steam that there was a pressing need for a secondary means of damping a large vessel’s unchecked rolling motion at sea.

In the 1870s, bilge keels were added to the hulls of then relatively new steamships, to improve their stability. In the 1880s, slosh tanks came along; they rely on water moving through baffles in tanks to reduce a vessel’s roll. In the 1920s, active fin stabilizers appeared; they protrude from the bilges and, to this day, are the most common stabilizers for everything…

The Stability of Spin

The Amazing Mister Moesly

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

It would be difficult to understand the genesis of Sea Craft without understanding Carl Moesly’s own history. Moesly grew up in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami of the 1920s and ’30s—very different places then from what they are now. His family was of modest means; both Moesly’s mother and father were first-generation Swiss immigrants who eloped to the United States. Moesly’s childhood had much in common with brothers Bud and Sandy Ricks of the film Flipper; that is, a great deal of Moesly’s time was spent on, around, or in the warm waters of what was then a sparsely populated South Florida.

The Amazing Mister Moesly

Management and Customer Service

Shoeless No More

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Removing your shoes before going aboard is a time-honored courtesy that applies to all and is especially important for those working on a boat. When I ran a boatyard, I had run-ins with countless shoe offenders. Going aboard a customer’s boat on the hard to check on the progress of two canvas makers, I was aghast to see that they had walked across the muddy gravel yard and straight up and across the deck, tracking clumps of earth and stones. The lack of attention and forethought, particularly for seasoned professionals, was mystifying and…

No More Mr. No Shoes

Desperately Seeking Apprenticeships

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

Several years ago, President Obama said that we need to be preparing all high school students for college. I cringed. In that scenario, how will we produce the roofers, carpenters, auto mechanics, and, of course, boatbuilders our society needs? I wish he had said, “We need to make sure all high school students have career options, be they college or vocational school.”

The sad fact is that high school vocational programs appear to be waning. Budgetary pressure and the allure of the digital-age illusion that every career can be carried out from behind a keyboard seem to be leading school systems and students down the wrong path, one that often brands “the trades” as somehow inferior to college. As many parents of college graduates now know all too well, a degree no longer guarantees…

Apprenticeship Training

Dealer (No) Support

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

While inspecting several vessels recently, I was reminded that information is best when you get it from the source. The flaws I found in the engine installations on those vessels were all clear violations of the engine manufacturers’ installation instructions, and have become easier to spot and document since the advent of the Internet, PDF manuals, and digital photography.
Here are a few examples.
Case #1: The exhaust hose leaving an injection elbow aboard a new 30′ (9.1m) trawler was U-shaped; it dropped down and then rose sharply back upward. I contacted the builder of the boat to share this information; however, the representative I spoke to was skeptical that this was incorrect. I sent photos and a scan of the installationmanual page where the continuousdrop requirements are detailed, in written and diagrammatic formats. The builder responded that the regional distributor that sold them the engine had…

Dealer (No) Support

In Summary; The Right and Wrong Way to Share Information with Boat Owners

First published in Professional BoatBuilder Magazine

“Steve: Attached please find the reports from the engine survey and oil analysis. I hope they are more intelligible to you than they are to me, because I have no idea how to read them.”

That quote was from a client who recently had his vessel’s engines surveyed by two factory-trained mechanics sent from the regional dealer, and it demonstrates a common problem in the marine industry.

In my experience, most marine professionals don’t communicate to their customers in easily understood, plainspoken language that supports their observations, analyses, and reports.

In Summary

Owning Component Failure; Taking Responsibility for the Gear You Install

First published in Professional Boat Builder Magazine

“Yeah, we don’t make the pump, you know; we only install it. If it’s not working,you need to call the manufacturer. Sorry.”

How many times have you heard that? In the face of a problem, if there’s one thing that sets folks off, it’s being told what they need to do, rather than being offered the assistance they need.

The quote is from a boatbuilder for whom I was a dealer at the time. I was commissioning a vessel built only months before, and the anchor washdown pump didn’t work. When I called the builder, I was simply stonewalled. For any component that failed, no matter its age or amount of use, this builder’s protocol was to leave it to the customer to make another phone call, or series of phone calls or e-mails, to track down the right person at the manufacturer. The customer or dealer was then responsible for the cost of removing, shipping, and reinstalling the part.

Owning Component Failure

How Sorry Are You?; The Art of the Apology for the Marine Industry

First published in Professional Boat Builder Magazine

During a recent project I helped a client navigate warranty “support” from a wellknown marine equipment manufacturer after he’d been given the runaround for months. Reviewing their e-mail exchanges I was struck by the manufacturer’s lack of empathy and the marked absence of what I refer to as “the right words.”

Throughout the exchanges, the company’s representative remained clinical and detached, revealing no emotion. He answered technical questions but did not acknowledge the customer’s frustration or disappointment. He expressed no regret that the customer was having this unpleasant experience and never said, “I’m sorry.” In short, the representative’s emotional quotient, orEQ, was woefully inadequate.

How Sorry Are You?

The Curious Mind of the Professional; Why it’s important for Marine Industry Pro’s to Want to Know Why

First published in Professional Boat Builder Magazine

A few months ago, I got a desperate call from a client who had taken his boat to a service facility where a “professional” service technician (also a dealer) came aboard to work on the watermaker, the second one the client had bought in two years. The first “new” unit turned out to be years old and was unceremoniously returned to the manufacturer. The current watermaker, from a different manufacturer, has remained problematic, and support has been spotty at best. The technician had given directions that contradicted the unit’s labeling and instruction manual, had failed to replace filters because he didn’t have the correct tools, and had also left valves in positions that prevented the unit from functioning, disabling the vessel’s entire water supply.

The Curious Mind of the Professional

Documentation and Instructions, Please; The Importance of Providing Proper Explanations and Literature with Your Installations

First published in Professional Boat Builder Magazine

Has a customer ever asked you: “Isn’t it just common sense that I should expect instructions/diagrams/ documentation with this [extremely complex] installation? How would I know how to use it, or what to do when it doesn’t work?”

The design, installation, and maintenance of complex marine propulsion, plumbing, and electrical systems are challenging yet rewarding tasks— exactly the sort of work that keeps many of the best builders and technicians engaged in the boating industry. I’ve done this work my entire career, so I know that these essential shipboard tasks have one thing in common: none could be successfully and gratifyingly completed without accurate documentation, information, and instructions. But I routinely inspect new and used vessels whose myriad systems lack these basic necessities.

Documentation and Instructions, Please

Why the Industry Needs to Get Onboard with Quoting

First published in Professional Boat Builder Magazine

As a marine industry consultant I hear both sides of most stories. In my work with people who are purchasing boats or having them built and serviced, I play combined roles as a technical advisor and trusted confidant, although at times I feel like a seagoing therapist. If you’ve worked in the boat business for any length of time, you’ve probably heard many of these stories as well: jobs gone wrong, budgets blown out of the water, and schedules shot to hell. In some cases, clients sob as I discuss the details of a project whose cost and schedule far exceed the original estimates. Other times, a client or spouse might die before the project is completed, but long after the original predicted finish date. I also realize that back when I was a yard manager I rarely heard the whole story. Now I see it in all its gory detail, and it’s not pretty.

A Case for Quoting